Monday, 20 February 2017

19/02/17 Review: Stoke City Ladies vs Stoke City Ladies Reserves

Stoke City Ladies 6-0 Stoke City Ladies Reserves (Staffordshire Ladies Challenge Cup, Semi-Final)
Community Drive

Another 'Pint Of Football' first today for me as I would finally take the plunge and attend my first Ladies football match. Following a rough afternoon out in Burslem yesterday the plan for myself and Tom (Partizan Bristle) today was to drag our hungover carcasses over to Birmingham for the massive FA Vase Quarter-Final match between Sporting Bromsgrove and Buckland Athletic. As our departure time arrived at 1pm we took to Twitter to grab the postcode for the ground, only to discover that the match was sold out! Never had we even considered that attending a Midland League Division One team would require pre-booking tickets, so we hopped around on the internet in search of another match we could attend. With time against us, we settled with a trip across town to Community Drive in search of the Semi-Final Staffs Challenge Cup match between Stoke City Ladies and their Reserves.

The Valiants yesterday, the Potters today. That's how we roll
Tom has visited many a Ladies match before and has even seen the National side, so in this case I was the proverbial newbie as we pulled-up at the ground in Smallthorne. Despite this trip being a last-minute thing, I am very glad that I was able to go down to the old home of Norton United as it allowed me to tick off another ground and one that I probably wouldn't have gone to under normal circumstances. Norton Cricket Club & Miners Welfare Institute has become the home of the Potters Ladies side since Norton folded, and my first impression of the ground was that it would be a good one to have a snoop around. Whilst Tom ran off to find a cash point, I headed straight in and managed to make it to pitch-side in time for kick-off. With no idea what to expect and no knowledge of the set-up of Stoke's Ladies team, I perused the programme to find that the Potters lasses are currently sitting pretty in 4th in their domestic league, and with this regional cup being against their own reserves, it was destined to be a win for the side labelled as the "home" side today.
All ready for me second game of the weekend
Even from the early knockings of the bout, the side playing in Stoke's away kit- which I'd presumed to be the Reserves- looked very good and we both found ourselves spending time questioning why the second team were playing so well compared to their red and white opponents. The side playing in the home kit had the first chance, but other than that they were being outplayed from the off. Thankfully a fan nearby overheard us discussing this and explained that the side playing in the away kit was the home side and the reserves were the away team playing in the home strip.

Decent turnout
Naturally, the atmosphere here was very pleasant as it was a very familiar fixture for the two sides, and the opening goal was soon to come. As we were walking around to the opposite side of the ground towards the dugout the Firsts number 9, Kate Asher, took advantage of a ball in the box and slid in amongst a Reserves defender to notch the opening goal on the quarter-hour mark. Firsts 1-0 Reserves. Even though we'd already seen an early goal my opening impression of the game was that the number 4 for Stoke Firsts, Summer Holmes, was a class-act in the centre of the midfield. I have since found out that Summer was making her debut for the Potters today and I found her dominance early-on to be a real eye-opener as to the level of the Ladies game. It is no secret that Women's Football is becoming very popular at the moment and with players like Holmes pinging the ball about like a female-version of Andres Iniesta, it was clear to see why about a hundred or so had come out for this match. Incidentally, it would be the former Baggies lass who would net the second goal of the day on her first outing. She found herself clear in the box and despite almost fluffing her lines, she regained composure to hit home a well-deserved goal with just under half-an-hour gone. Firsts 2-0 Reserves. With the tie seeming all but over at this point, the game remained competitive and some feisty challenges were being put in. Just because this was an intra-squad game, it certainly wasn't a friendly.

The lino's certainly got a good workout 
As Jamilla Palmer's long legs flew in on a short Reserves defender, she quickly apologised as the game came to a temporary stop. Meanwhile Kate Asher, who I named the Mario Balotelli of the Women's League, was playing an assertive game up-front and was proving to be a real handful for the opponent's defence. She played with an intimidating look on her face and used her strength well to bully defenders off the ball on more than one occasion. In terms of goalmouth action, there was a couple of long-range efforts to come and just before half-time we were treated to one more goal. Harriet Wellings had hit the side-netting earlier in the game, but when she cut in from the right-hand side in injury time her cross-cum-shot looped over the Reserves keeper and nestled firmly into the net for a third time in the match. Firsts 3-0 Reserves. With that, it was half-time and therefore the moment to visit the ground's facilities. After an awkward encounter in the world's smallest toilet in which I opened the door and almost knocked a man using the urinal out, me and Tom head into the clubhouse/bar and spent the remains of the break chatting with the lovely gal on the bar. After giving me a Worthington's instead of a Lager amongst our bickering, she kindly swapped it for me and stated that the Worthy's would certainly not go to waste- got to love a happy accident. We then peeked outside to see that there was another Women's team training or warming-up in an orange kit, and watched them for a moment before heading back out to the game we were here to see.

We just love the footy- wherever, whoever, whenever
The second 45 had a similar flow to the first. Despite making a bunch of substitutions at half-time, the First team continued to dominate and when one of the subs, Ashleigh Hayes, took a shot from 25-yards the keeper could do nothing but palm it into the net and with 40 minutes still to play, it was game over now. Firsts 4-0 Reserves. After netting her first goal within four minutes of coming on, Hayes then doubled her tally on the hour-mark with a tidy finish. Firsts 5-0 Reserves. Amongst some great moments of play from the Firsts and some good on-the-ball moves from the Reserves, there was also a stand-out moment of comedy as Jamilla Palmer took a ball to the head. With a frown on her face, she simply shouted out "ooh, me head" as many from the crowd raised a smile knowing that her comical remark signalled that she was okay.

Everyone's having a good time
There was one final goal to come and it was the lass who scored the opener that would grab the closing strike and put a cap on a very comfortable progression to the Final. Asher had the ball fed into her on 82 minutes and she smashed the ball into the net from close-range. Firsts 6-0 Reserves. Three goals in both halves meant that Stoke City Ladies would be in the final yet again- they have won every Staffordshire Challenge Cup since 2008/09 and they will surely be the favourites to win a ninth consecutive Trophy following last season's triumph over Sporting Khalsa Women. My first outing to a Ladies football match was great, and I'll definitely be visiting more in the future. Having seen some decent games on TV during the 2015 World Cup and at the Rio Olympics in 2016, I would urge any football fan to go and see a live match. For me, my next outing will be at Dulwich Hamlet on Saturday as I travel down to South-East London to watch the mighty Silkmen take on their part-time opponents in the quarter-final of the FA Trophy. Cheers again to Tom who accompanied me on another fantastic football weekend- I'll be through at his again towards the end of the season to hopefully see Bristol Manor Farm lift the Western League crown at The Creek.

1 comment:

  1. Great match report Daz, you'd be welcome back any time.